The previous dispatch system required several shifts of dispatchers and cost the department over $200,000 in salaries and benefits. Now that same capability is being handled by the County for just over $53,000. And provides great efficiency and speed in dispatching calls. Photo by LCGross
Home » Government » Miami Police Department gets a boost with new software and centralized dispatch

Miami Police Department gets a boost with new software and centralized dispatch

Last year, the Miami Police Department installed a new SpillmanFlex system to help with records management and improve coordination among first responders. The system allows the PD to plug in easily to a shared network of area first responders, including the Gila County Sheriff’s Department, Globe Police Department, the TriCity and Globe fire departments, and the drug task force. The system also enhances transparency.

All police vehicles have installed the Spillman Mobile system in their computers. Now, officers can pull up the full range of data, as well as be able to see what kinds of calls are being taken by the Sheriff’s Department and others in the network. Everyone is now on the same system. 

The system will allow law enforcement to have better access to information about the people they deal with.

“We all deal with the same people,” says Police Chief Keith Thompson. With the old system, officers wouldn’t know if a person they arrested might have a record of arrests in Globe or the County, without doing a lot of legwork. Thompson said, “Take a domestic violence charge: after three strikes, the individual is facing a felony. But if we can’t easily cross-check the person’s records with the other agencies, we treat it as a misdemeanor.” He said it’s important for officers to be able to access a complete picture when they go out on calls, and with the new system, they have that. 

The SpillmanFlex system has become a favorite of agencies nationwide. The company boasts of having thousands of agencies relying on their product. 

The investment will also put the department in a better position to receive future grants. Thompson says its records management under the old system was spotty, and it didn’t accurately track all calls. The SpillmanFlex system will record all calls and make it easier for the department to document its efforts and include accurate numbers in grant applications. 

Thompson came from the Sheriff’s Department when he took the position in Miami. He says transitioning to Miami PD’s environment based on a 1995 system – one that lacked the robust database capabilities he was used to and was prone to crash – was difficult to say the least. 

Almost immediately, Thompson began to lobby for the new system, but was told the town lacked funds to pay for it.

Chief Thompson has served with the Globe Police Department, Gila County Narcotics Task Force and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office before hiring on with the Miami Police Department in 2018. Appointed Chief of Police in January of 2019, he has made big strides in improving his department. Photo by LCGross

“I got on the phone and begged every agency in the State for assistance,” Thompson says, “but it wasn’t until I connected with Director Alberto Gutier of the Governor’s Office of Public Safety that things really began to move in our direction.” Thompson said Gutier stepped in and helped find the money to fund the system. Thompson already had contacts at Spillman from his time at the Sheriff’s Department and, he says, “They wanted to see us get this for our town. In the end, I got a great deal on the software, and we had the money from the Governor’s office to pay for it.” 

Thompson says the system cost approximately $65,000, and none of that came out of the Town’s budget. 

Miami contracts with Gila County for dispatch services

Thompson also worked with Town Manager Micah Gaudet to arrange for a contract with the County for dispatch services. 

Thompsons says the biggest advantage the system offers is speed. A person who calls 911 is typically panicked, and the dispatcher has to ask a series of questions to understand the situation and determine the best response. 

Thompson says in the past, when a 911 call came in from Miami, a County dispatcher would forward the call to Miami PD, where the local dispatcher would have to go through a second set of questions before sending an officer. The local dispatcher would then have to call the County back to confirm whether medical had been sent. 

All of that took minutes the person might not have. 

Stephanie Borunda is Chief Thompson’s administrative assistant and also serves as the personal contact with the public for non-emergency issues Monday thru Friday 8 am to 5 pm. The department has also installed a call box outside the police station which connects callers to dispatch 24/7. Photo by LCGross

The new system means the person in distress only has to tell their story once, and both police and medical assistance can be dispatched at the same time. The efficiency of the system shaves minutes off response times. This can mean the difference when dealing with a heart attack, an in-progress criminal act, or a domestic violence incident. 

Mayor Sammy Gonzales praises the move for both speeding up service and enhancing officer safety. “The dispatch being serviced by the county is important to our community and also to our police officers,” Gonzales says.

The change makes financial sense, too. Gaudet says the Town of Miami is saving over $80,000, even after considering the $53,843 Miami is paying the Gila County Sheriff’s Department for dispatch services.

“But I would have done this even if we hadn’t seen those savings,” Gaudet says. He believes the real value to the town is quicker response times and more successful outcomes. 

Gaudet has held the position of Town Manager for just over a year. He gets high praise from Thompson, who credits Gaudet with making improvements in the Police Department possible. Thompson said he’s been able to do more to improve his department in the past year than he did in the two and a half years prior. He praised Gaudet for trusting and supporting his department heads.

 

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